Donald Trump’s campaign, while preposterous and inconsistent, has thrown a bright light on a social divide in America that is deeper and more severe than most of us realized. There is no doubt that Trump is a narcissistic ass who has the ethics of an alley cat with a grossly enlarged libido. Nonetheless, despite his bombastic claims and morally degenerate behavior, many Americans are willing to turn a blind eye to his racial, ethnic, and misogynist hate mongering, and believe that “Donald really tells it like it is.”
People, we know something’s wrong, but let’s not forget what is right.
Clearly, the great social experiment of equal opportunity and mutual respect in our Democracy is far less mature than it ought to be at this point in our history. What has happened to stir up such vile and destructive emotions among so many people?
I believe that the current, worsening social divide is a product of an even more stark divide in the United States, namely the economic chasm between the wealthy and the rest of us.
During most of the 20th Century, the strength of our nation was largely drawn from a large and vibrant middle class that bridged the divide between the rich and the poor. That middle class provided a vital pathway to success for people in poverty who wanted to better their conditions. It provided the reachable goal of helping a next generation live better than the parents had. Anyone could get ahead through honest work and intestinal fortitude. There was credible reason for hope.
But the dawn of both the information age that supplanted our manufacturing economy and the political shift of tax burdens from the rich to the middle class, changed the role and nature of the class structure in America. Today, the poor have little means or hope to achieve upward mobility. They have been nearly completely disenfranchised from the American Dream. They are surrounded by greedy predators, like Mr. Trump, who create bogus “universities” touting the promise of a bright future. Unsuspecting and well meaning people take on student loans to pay for an ultimately bogus education and a useless degree. Because student loans are not forgiven by bankruptcy, people least able to pay back loans trade their hopeful futures for a lifetime debt. And the rich get richer.
While the poor lose hope, many in the middle class face the legitimate fear of falling below the poverty line to join the ranks of the hopeless. The middle class is not shrinking because more people are getting rich. The erosion of the middle class is from the bottom, not the top.
Meanwhile, the rich buy the allegiance of law makers in local, state, and national political arenas and quietly arrange the rules of the land in ways that allow them to systematically siphon off more wealth from middle class and the poor. Nowhere is that more evident than in the tax codes of all levels of government.
There is no doubt that the top 10% of wealthy Americans pay significantly less than their fair share of taxes. Don’t listen to politicians or political pundits who, like Mr. Trump, make up false statistics to the contrary. Fully 50% or more of the wealth of this nation is owned by that 10%. By far, more taxes are collected from our 50% than are collected from their 50%. End of story!
This economic disaster began with the Ronald Reagan notion that if we cut taxes for the wealthy, all kinds of great things would happen. They would invest all that untaxed money to create tons of new jobs for millions of people. Some of the wealth of the top 10% would “trickle down” like soft rain from a cloud, nourishing us all.
It simply didn’t happen then, and it will not happen now. The rich don’t use their money to create rainfalls for anyone. Most use money to get more money. Few, if any people benefited more financially than the rich during the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of of the 21st. They have built their rigged system. All they need do now is maintain it.
The spiral we are in where the rich profit at the expense of the rest of us can only be stopped if the rest of us, 90% of the electorate, demand that:
- Tax codes are simplified and the wealthy are made to pay their fair share without exception. The purpose of taxes in a democracy includes being a mechanism for a healthy distribution of wealth among the electorate. That needs to happen.
- The power of free speech is equitably shared by all. One’s right to speak freely is sacrosanct, but the decibel level of one person’s right to speak should not be allowed to drown the speech of others. Free speech needs to include the concept of an equal right to be heard. That’s where the power resides. That is why we desperately need to impose limits on how much money any one individual or group of individuals, or a corporation or a union, or a political action committee can contribute to the decibel level of any one candidate. The idea that free speech in America includes the right to drown out the speech of others who may not have a mega-phone is dangerous and ethically contrary to the bedrock upon which this nation was built.
- Good jobs are created by government to repair and improve the infrastructure we all depend on (even the rich) for transportation, communication, education, law enforcement, welfare, and commerce etc..
- Education for the information age is widely made available and affordable if not free in many cases.
The gulf between greed and simple comfort is wide.
The gulf between greed and happiness is wider.
Being part of the solution is always better than being part of the problem.